Subject: IMPORTANT- Horizon Europe public consultation: make the in silico medicine voice heard!

Dear VPHi member,

As you are undoubtedly aware, the European Commission has recently published a strategic document for the first part of Horizon Europa 2021-2024 ( Digital tools for healthcare are repeatedly mentioned, which is a positive sign. However, there is still room for improvement and further elaboration. 

Related to the strategic document, the Commission has opened a public consultation that closes this Sunday September 8th ( In less than 20 minutes, you can give your input and insight into what the priorities for the next framework program should be. We hope you have already participated and have advocated for the further development and uptake of in silico technologies in healthcare, and have encouraged your colleagues to do the same.

In case you have not yet had the opportunity to participate in the consultation, we encourage you strongly to do so. The European Commission is committed to taking on board the voices from the different communities, but of course, the higher the number of the voices from a given community, the louder the message is heard in Brussels. We have champions within the European Commission and a strong message from our community will empower them to propose calls tailored to our community’s needs.

In order to facilitate the process of going through the consultation, we have generated some paragraphs of text on the background, impact and possible R&I actions (found at the bottom of this email) that can be inserted in the free text parts of the consultation. We hope that this will help you formulate your message to the Commission. I would like to stress again that it would really be a good thing for our community and all its researchers, to have many VPHi members participate in this survey. We are happy to provide further input or feedback should you need it.

Thank you very much in advance, on behalf of our entire community!
Best wishes,
Lies Geris 
VPHi Executive Director


Horizon Europe Cluster 1: Health
VPH Institute input in Horizon Europe public consultation

Indicators of importance for all subjects: use personal judgement

Question (at end of consultation): Please provide here further general input regarding the targeted impacts from Horizon Europe. (5000 characters):

There is a growing consensus across the healthcare sector that big data and digitalisation (including computer modelling and simulation) will allow to transform the healthcare of the future by providing tools to understand complexity of health and disease. In the partial agreement by the European Council and Parliament in April 2019, the importance of computer modelling and simulation was recognized and the use of the concept of a digital twin in healthcare was written into the Horizon Europe legal framework itself. However, there are still many hurdles to be taken to fully exploit the potential of these new technologies. A number of these challenges is related to the data required to build the digital tools: FAIRification, data storage, data protection, ethics. Other challenges are related to the technology aspects: linking AI with prior knowledge, generating and ensuring quality of the information used as input for the digital tools, interoperability between different tools. And yet other challenges are present on the side of the uptake of these tools by healthcare professionals, patients, regulators and authorities.

Expected impact: the development, implementation and uptake of digital tools will facilitate an innovative, sustainable and high-quality healthcare in the EU, it will allow citizens to remain healthy for longer by allowing personal health forecasting and it will provide tools to tackle diseases and reduce its burden for individual patients and society as a whole. To give a few examples: with computer modelling and simulation in paediatrics we can move to confirmatory clinical trials rather than exploratory – raising the bar for safety in trials with children. In orphan medicinal products, we can vastly expand the potential trial candidates and improve our understanding of rare diseases by running virtual trails as a support for traditional trials. In the field of ageing – a core priority for the Commission, we can better understand polypharmacy and make sure that we are preserving not just life but livelihood by better understanding the interaction of treatments and multi-morbidities.

In order to realize this impact, further R&I actions are required. Generation and curation of data as well as access to data that is collected in large databases is a necessary step to the successful implementation of digital tools. This data is not limited to electronic health records but also pertains to data and tissues collected in biobanks and other collections. In order to maximize the use of these precious sources, pilot studies should be funded to bring such initiatives together across member states and tackle legal, economical and technologies barriers making it difficult to do so today.

Further development of the digital technologies themselves is essential. Artificial Intelligence is one, important, tool in the wide range of digital tools that is available. Most (bio)medical questions will require a range of digital technologies to be used to provide appropriate answers for patients and professionals, combining tools that start from data (AI, machine learning) with tools that start from the insights in biomedical processes that were governed by the vast amounts of work done in previous framework programs (mechanistic, VPH). Being prescriptive in the specific type of digital tools to use in R&I actions might lead to partial answers being generated reducing their impact.

In silico medicine will be the future
Virtual Physiological Human Institute for Integrative Biomedical Research (VPH Institute)

Celestijnenlaan 300C, 3001, Heverlee, Belgium
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